The Man Who Would Be King: Why Trump’s Character Matters


King, Warrior, Magician, Lover

In an interview with Time ten years ago Holocaust survivor, author, and Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel was asked to name his favorite Biblical hero. Wiesel, who died July 2nd at age 87, selected Moses as a great legislator, commander-in-chief and prophet as well as a loyal representative of his people and God. Additionally, Moses possessed humility, and he did not give in to hatred or indifference which are the main stumbling blocks to effective leadership. According to Wiesel, these blocks of hatred and indifference “are the two most important subjects in the world.”

Authors Robert Moore and Douglas Gillette present a comparable model of leadership in their books King, Warrior, Magician, Lover: Rediscovering the Archetypes of the Mature Masculine and The King Within: Accessing the King in the Male Psyche. They write that the characterological make-up of adult males might be understood in terms of four images or archetypes, i.e., the King, Warrior, Magician, and Lover. Wiesel’s description of Moses as legislator, commander-in-chief, prophet, and loyal representative neatly corresponds to these four images.

Moore and Gillette write that an adult male ideally learns to integrate the King, Warrior, Magician, and Lover energies within himself. Via the King in particular he unites that which is at opposition and creates order out of chaos. Relatedly, he acts with grace not grandiosity as he realizes the effect that his vested power has on himself and others. Like Wiesel, Moore and Gillette state that the King therefore possesses true humility, acknowledging his own shortcomings and susceptibility to corruption. He is a discerning steward of the people and the greater good and has become what psychologist Erik Erikson calls a generative man.

Three historical figures who exemplified the King energy are Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Abraham Lincoln. They concerned themselves with helping and even liberating less fortunate individuals and groups. Theirs was a worldview of inclusivity or universalism. Moore and Gillette note that the King “must nurture his own progeny, culture, and religion, as well as the larger world of all human societies, and the environment as an ecological whole.” Gandhi, MLK, Jr., and Lincoln all knew that a kingdom divided against itself cannot stand.

In religious tradition if Moses provides one example of the ideal leader or King, then his counterpart the Pharaoh is what Moore and Gillette call the Shadow King. Unable to nurture his progeny, culture, religion, world, or environment, such a figure cannot manage the internal and external forces that would weaken and destroy him and his kingdom. Unaware of the degree to which such forces have overwhelmed his reason and self-control, he becomes the victim of what analytical psychology refers to as his shadow. He becomes the victim of his own fear and desire.

Moore and Gillette assert that each of the four images or archetypes named above has a shadow comprised of two poles, one active and the other passive. The active pole of the Shadow King is called the Tyrant Usurper. A person caught up in the energies of this pole exhibits a sense of personal entitlement, grandiosity, greed, and envy. Such an individual is especially sensitive to criticism and reacts in an exaggerated fashion when criticized. He is bullying and insulting. At root, his outward displays of rage and paranoia stem from a fear of weakness or impotency, both his own and that of others. Dictators such as Hitler, Mussolini, and Stalin are but a few recent historical examples of the Tyrant Usurper.

The Tyrant Usurper cannot come into power in a person without the passive acquiescence or permission in other individuals of the Weakling Abdicator, its opposing pole. With a nod to Wiesel, the Tyrant Usurper is to hatred what the Weakling Abdicator is to indifference. Moore and Gillette ominously observe that “every abdicated king needs at least one usurping king, and every usurper must find willing abdicators.” In short, the Tyrant Usurper and Weakling Abdicator are the two main stumbling blocks to true leadership or Kinghood.

Leading up to the Republican convention, commentators frequently remarked upon the impending coronation of presumptive presidential nominee Donald Trump. But what kind of King would Trump be? Since launching his presidential campaign in June 2015, Trump arguably has demonstrated qualities associated more with the Shadow King, specifically the Tyrant Usurper, than with Erickson’s generative man or what Moore and Gillette call the King in his fullness. Instead of uniting opposition and creating order, Trump is a man at the center of chaos and often even seems to thrive in it like an angry carnival barker. Indeed, chaos gives him a platform upon which he can vent his personal disgust, rage, and paranoia. His many inflammatory comments about the other, i.e., women, Muslims, Mexicans, and Hispanic-Americans is proof of such paranoia. These comments also show him to be anything but inclusive, universal, or nurturing.

The motives and amounts of his charitable giving or generosity toward those less fortunate have also been called into question. According to the Washington Post, a list produced by Trump’s campaign “reveals how Trump has demonstrated less of the soaring, world-changing ambitions in his philanthropy than many other billionaires. Instead, his giving appears narrowly tied to his business and, now, his political interests.” The only world that Trump wishes to nurture and change for the better is his own. Moore and Gillette’s contention that the Tyrant Usurper often manifests in people with a narcissistic personality disorder comes as little surprise.

The two authors also write that “[The Tyrant Usurper’s] degradation of others knows no bounds.” Such degradation feeds his sense of grandiosity and superiority. One need only think of Trump’s spiteful name-calling and personalized attacks on Ted Cruz and others, his claim that John McCain is not a true war hero, or his bullying of Megyn Kelly. Trump’s more general statement that victims of bullying should just “get over it” itself is degrading to those same victims. Other degrading instances of Trump’s tyrannical behavior include his many lawsuits real and threatened, his revocation of press credentials at political events, his praise of dictators’ so-called strong leadership, and his haughty disregard of climate science.

What, then, are we to do? The solution to this predicament is to not give in to either side, neither the side of hatred nor of indifference. The solution is to not be reactionary but responsible. The King must respond with grace, humility, and generativity, and as Moore and Gillette develop at greater length in their books, he must be a provider, protector, and procreator for his people and kingdom. He must not divide his kingdom for then it will become a wasteland.

Contemporary analytical psychologists believe that images or archetypes such as the King, Warrior, Magician, and Lover are gender-neutral. That is, they are found in the psyches of women as well as men. This fact means that their shadow forms are found there, too. We would do well to demand of ourselves and our leaders, both male and female, that none of us becomes the next Shadow King, the next Tyrant Usurper or Weakling Abdicator.

This entry was posted in Culture, Depth Psychology, Myth, Politics. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to The Man Who Would Be King: Why Trump’s Character Matters

  1. Bob says:

    U forgot in examples of Trump’s tyrannical behavior his relish in firing people! I guess we could come up with a few more examples with little to no effort.
    U have done us all a service in analyzing the character of this man in a more rigorous fashion.

  2. Josefa says:

    Thank you for this Chris, it is good to see Elie Wiesel honoured. As for Trump, you are right on the money. I fell asleep with ABC News 24 running and woke up to one of his rants. My husband was away at a conference and I texted him that Trump’s scriptwriter had started translating Mein Kampf!!!

  3. John says:

    Read the 1990 Vanity Fair piece where Ivanna was interviewed. In it she states that Donald keeps a book of Hitler’s speeches in his bedroom. When asked about it D.T. stated that it wasn’t Hitler’s speeches but Mein Kampf and that his friend, a Jew gave it to him. When they asked this friend about it he said that it was indeed the book of speeches and also that he is not Jewish. If you look at what Hitler did and compare the manipulations of fear and the sponsoring of shadow projection, you see that D.T. is following the pattern quite closely.

  4. Chris says:

    Bob, Josefa, and John,

    Thanks for your comments (and your decision to not be a “weakling abdicator.”) With much appreciation!


  5. Brexit says:

    Now that so much has come to pass, one sentence in particular stands out:

    “He must not divide his kingdom for then it will become a wasteland.”

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